Former SIU student brings taste of Chicago to southern Illinois


Megan Fakhoury, 7, of Carbondale, takes a bite out of a cheeseburger Saturday, Aug. 26, 2017, at Dale’s Burgers in Carbondale. (Athena Chrysanthou | @Chrysant1Athena)

By Samantha Keebler

When Joshua Liechty was at SIU in 2008 studying aviation and psychology, he didn’t know what his calling was.

“I never really knew what I wanted to do,” he said. “I kind of always wanted to own a restaurant.”

Liechty, an Aurora native, dropped out of school in 2011 and spent years working in various restaurants, including Don Taco and Bombay Olive. While still working at Bombay Olive in June, Liechty said he got an offer he couldn’t refuse.


A storefront in the Murdale Shopping Center went up for sale and he and his business partner Gordon O’Neal compiled their life savings to open up Dale’s Burger Shack, which had its ribbon cutting Aug. 17.

The shack delivers around Carbondale and is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The name comes from a combination of Carbondale and Murdale, Liechty said.

When deciding what type of food to bring the southern Illinois, Liechty said he knew it had to come from Chicago.

Willem Higgins, 11, of Carbondale (top left), Mikah Montgomery, 11, of Salem (top right), Josiah Montgomery, 8, of Salem (bottom left), and Megan Fakhoury, 7, of Carbondale (bottom right) eat burgers Saturday, Aug. 26, 2017, at Dale’s Burgers in Carbondale (Athena Chrysanthou | @Chrysant1Athena)

“Carbondale has a lot of people from up north,” he said. “There hasn’t really been a great place to get that Chicago food, even though we’ve always wanted it.”

The shack offers Vienna Beef hotdogs and bread from Chicago. Liechty said it’s all local beef, ground fresh every morning. They also slice all their deli meat, cheese and produce in-house, he said.

Molly McCleary, 22, is a Chicago-native and one of Liechty’s employees. She said she appreciates having a piece of home in Carbondale.

Meesha Montgomery of Salem and Maddy Heggins of Giant City enjoy lunch Saturday, Aug. 26, 2017, at Dale’s Burgers in Carbondale. Both are members of the Saluki Swim Club at the Rec and practice six times a week. “Usually after Saturday practice as a team we will go to places like this. We don’t like chains,” Heggins said. “After a two hour practice we are really hungry.” (Athena Chrysanthou | @Chrysant1Athena)

“That’s what I really enjoy — the Chicago-style feel that you get from the place,” she said.


Though Liechty chose the restaurant’s menu with the Windy City in mind, he said he also tries to keep locals involved.

So far, Liechty said he has cut deals with Arnold’s Market and Rule of Pie to sell their products in his restaurant, and he said he plans to start selling local coffee as well.

Liechty and Gordon pay all their employees at least $10.50 an hour, an amount Liechty said he hopes to eventually increase.

All his staff members have a food handler’s certificate and work with heat and knives, which Liechty said makes them deserving of a higher wage.

Megan Fakhoury, 7, of Carbondale, reaches for a fry Saturday, Aug. 26, 2017, at Dale’s Burgers in Carbondale. (Brian Muñoz | @BrianMMunoz)

“We can give the staff the money they deserve for the work they do,” he said. “It is not a minimum wage job– no aspect of this job is minimum wage work.”

Liechty said he is optimistic his business model will inspire other entrepreneurs.

“I hope that they understand that it is possible to run a business with affordable food, with wide hours, with doing as much stuff from scratch, while still paying your staff a living wage,” he said.

Above all, Liechty said he doesn’t want people to forget that Dale’s Burger Shack is anything but a lavish joint.

“It’s a shack, it’s not the burger palace,” he said.

Staff writer Samantha Keebler can be reached at [email protected].

To stay up to date with all your southern Illinois news, follow the Daily Egyptian on Facebook and Twitter.